Obtained evidence of the existence of the ocean on the moon of Saturn

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of astronomers has conducted a survey of the heavily cratered surface of Mimas, Saturn’s smallest moon. An analysis of the data obtained suggests that Mimas must have a liquid ocean.

The study and a brief report can be found on the Southwestern Research Institute website. Until a few years ago, scientists suggested that the smallest and closest moon to Saturn could generate enough heat to support a liquid interior ocean.

At the same time, it is known that Mimas is a rather cold world. In addition, it is covered with a large number of impact craters, inside which, as scientists suggest, there is an ice shell.

In the new study, astronomers relied on data obtained by the Cassini spacecraft. This mission was originally created to study Saturn.

It was Cassini who recorded a curious libration (fluctuations in the rotation of Mimas). This often indicates a geologically active body capable of supporting an ocean, scientists say.

“Mimas seemed like an unlikely candidate for such a body, with its icy and heavily cratered surface marked by a single giant impact crater that makes this small moon look a lot like the Death Star from Star Wars,” says Dr. Alyssa Roden, co-author of the study.

“If Mimas has an ocean, then it represents a new class of small ‘ocean’ worlds with surfaces that don’t give away the existence of an ocean.”

Previous studies have shown that the Mimas ice shell must have been at least 55 kilometers thick. However, new simulations based on Cassini observations have forced a significant adjustment to the previous figures.

According to scientists, the thickness of the ice shell is about 30 kilometers. Under it, as the simulation results indicate, a liquid ocean may be hiding.

The data obtained also provided a glimpse into Mimas’ past. Scientists suggest that it was once a completely icy world.

However, everything changed after a cosmic catastrophe – a small moon was attacked by a large cosmic body, resulting in the formation of Herschel Crater, the largest impact crater on this satellite of Saturn.

Probably, the blow was so powerful that in the depths of Mimas, the ocean literally began to warm up and expand, which, apparently, still exists.

“We found that the Herschel crater could not have formed in an ice shell of modern thickness without destroying the ice shell at the impact site,” says another researcher Adina Denton.

“If Mimas today has an ocean, then this means that its ice shell has thinned since the moment of the formation of the Herschel crater.

“While our results confirm the presence of a modern ocean within Mimas, it is difficult to reconcile the satellite’s orbital and geological characteristics with our current understanding of its thermal orbital evolution,” Rodin summarizes.


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